New Delhi– Liquor baron Vijay Mallya in an e-mail to his lawyer has expressed his willingness to return to India and respect the country’s judicial system.
An hour before the hearing on Friday, Mallya sent an e-mail to his defence counsel Ajay Bhargava asking him to file a plea seeking exemption from personal appearance before a court hearing a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules on his behalf.
“I request you to kindly appear before the learned judge on the said date on my behalf and file an exemption application requesting the judge to kindly dispense with my personal presence on the said date of hearing (September 9),” Mallya wrote in the mail.
“I request you (defence counsel) to also kindly convey to the learned judge that I have the utmost respect for his authority and towards the judicial systems of the country, in general,” Mallya said in the mail.
“However, in the given circumstances, despite my best intentions to obey the order of the learned judge, I find myself incapacitated to travel to India, at this moment, even though I am making all the efforts to have the said revocation of my passport set aside.”
“As you are fully aware of the matter and duly authorised by me to represent me in the proceedings thereof – I request you to kindly proceed with the final arguments in the matter,” Mallya wrote.
Mallya on Friday sought exemption from personal appearance in court and said he is unable to return to the country and face trial in a case of alleged violation of foreign exchange rules as the Indian authorities had suspended his passport.
On July 9, the court had asked Mallya to personally appear before it on September 9, after allowing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) plea to withdraw the exemption given to him from personal appearance in the case.
Mallya’s counsel Ajay Bhargava moved a plea seeking exemption from his personal appearance and told Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sumit Dass that his client is living in London.
Defence counsel apprised the court that Mallya’s passport had been suspended by Indian passport authorities in April.
On April 23, his passport was revoked without even affording a personal hearing which he had requested for, the court was told.
“… ever since the revocation of his passport, the applicant (Mallya) has been staying in London and is not in possession of any requisite travel document which could possibly enable him to travel to India,” Mallya’s counsel said.
The counsel said that Mallya had urged the court to allow him to be represented by his lawyer to continue with the final arguments and save the court’s precious time.
Public Prosecutor Navin Matta told the court that Mallya is evading questioning and proceedings in other matters pending against him.
The court allowed Mallya’s plea for exemption for today (Friday) and sought a reply from the Enforcement Directorate. It fixed October 4 for further hearing in the case.
During the last hearing, the court had allowed the ED plea to seek recall of a court order that granted permanent exemption from appearance to Mallya, who faces money laundering charges in India.
The court was hearing the final arguments in the 2000 case related to alleged violation by Mallya of provisions of the erstwhile Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) in arranging funds to advertise his company’s liquor products abroad.
According to ED, Mallya had allegedly paid $200,000 to a British firm for displaying the Kingfisher logo in the Formula One World Championships in London and some European countries in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
The agency had claimed that the money was allegedly paid without prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India, in violation of FERA norms.
Mallya was summoned and tried in the case. He was granted exemption from personal appearance by the Delhi court on December 20, 2000.
The ED has sought withdrawal of exemption granted to Mallya and sought the court’s direction asking him to personally remain present in court on each and every date of final arguments of the case.